Spanning from 1971 – 1987, The Old Grey Whistle Test was the perfect platform for the album rock period when commercial pop was overshadowed by good ol’ fashioned musicianship, innovation, and albums you could listen to and enjoy from the first groove on Side A to the last groove on Side B. It premiered on BBC2, and up to that point, the standard for weekly musical performance television was Top of the Pops in the UK, and American Bandstand here in the states. What The Old Grey Whistle Test offered was something new, something different.
Top of the Pops and American Bandstand, for the most part, promoted both big and small acts performing their current hit via canned music, smiles, and lip sync. The Old Grey Whistle Test gave these same artists (focusing more on the up-and-comer rather than the tried-and-true) the opportunity to play their songs completely live (with the occasional live vocal over a pre-recorded audio track) and, in many cases, were encouraged to play deep album cuts in place of their current hit. This paved the way for such 1970s American staples as The Midnight Special and Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert, both of which prided themselves on their all the way “live” performances.
On August 29th, BBC Video, in conjunction with Warner Home Video, will release The Old Grey Whistle Test Vol. 3 on DVD, both separately, and as part of a limited edition box set, compiling this new offering with two previously released editions of this legendary live performance show. In contrast to the first two volumes, which featured familiar hits and artists like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” and Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer”, Vol. 3 focuses more on the lesser-known songs and acts in a catalogue that spans 16 innovative years, offering an even more eclectic, and almost overtly British group of performances. All of which have since gone on to become record shop darlings on either side of the pond. Had Yo La Tango, !!! (chk-chk-chk), or Le Tigre been around circa ’71-’87, they more than likely would have made it on this installment.